“But boys will be boys, our favourite phrase that excuses so many things, while the only thing we have for the opposite gender is women, said with disdain and punctuated with an eye roll.”
The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis is a young-adult contemporary bordering on the mystery/thriller genre. It is told in three perspectives – Alex Craft, a girl remembered solely for the murder of her sister, Jack Fisher, star athlete, valedictorian and the person every guy wants to be and every girls wants to be with and finally Peekay, nicknamed for being the Preacher’s Kid who is struggling to come to terms with heartbreak over her ex. Together, they tell the story of their senior year and how their lives come together and how it ultimately affects everyone.
I loved everything about this story. I read it in one day and I haven’t been hooked to a book that much in a long time. The plot, the writing, the characters – everything was just addictive. It does not fall into your typical YA coming-of-age story. Yes, it tells the story of three characters in their final year of high school and yes, there is drinking and sex and relationships and rivalry but the one thing Mindy McGinnis does is include horror. There are mentions of animal abuse, sexual assault and murder. It also deals with rape culture, slut-shaming and gender discrimination. Despite it being about teenagers, the author does not shy away from the violence and acts of justice humans are capable of.
Alex Craft is our morally grey character who isn’t afraid to punch somebody in the balls for touching her without permission, who attacks a man for drugging her friend and even kills her sister’s murderer. Since a child she has embraced her violent nature and yet she meets Peekay volunteering at an animal shelter and ultimately, is just a girl that cares too much. She can’t stand to live in a world where violent acts against women go unpunished. Jack is your typical valedictorian/star-athlete/popular guy who embodies boys will be boys and yet falls deeply and madly in love with Alex who will destroy anyone associated with that stereotype. This allows him to see typical male behaviour through new eyes. Peekay is the rebellious Preacher’s Kid who isn’t afraid to put the other girls down and feels like she needs to help people in the world. She misses her ex, has very supportive parents and is drawn to Alex and the way she sees the world. I love how complex she was and how much her character developed within the course of the story – she starts off hating Branley, the girl her ex left her for, even going as far as slut-shaming her and yet at the end, she is the one who helps and supports Branley when she needs support. Speaking of, Branley was such a refreshing character. She’s your typical Queen Bee, beautiful, heavily made-up popular girl who gets all the guys, including Jack but she is so multi-layered. She is just a young girl that wants to be loved and accepted, not just for how she looks. During as assembly about rape culture, some guys even shout that it is her who is most likely to be raped. There were times I wanted to scream at her for her actions but if anything, she’s the one character I was the most attached to emotionally.
Ultimately, this is a book about rape culture. When the justice system fails, can we step in? Can we take revenge into our own hands like Alex? One of the first conversations in this book explores the animal kingdom and how the female of the species are deadlier. Therefore, the story delves into animal vs human nature. How far can we go to protect those we love? Alex, who is capable of extreme violence in order to protect against Peekay who fantasises about violence and yet finds it doesn’t come naturally to her. The girls volunteer at an animal shelter and yet Jack works with his father in a slaughterhouse. This book is filled with parallels between the characters, acts of kindness vs acts of good.
The ending blew my bloody socks off and obviously I won’t go into details but let’s just say that I did not expect it. I started off really disliking and questioning what the author chose to do and if it had been any other book, it would have probably ruined it for me but for this book and the message it’s telling, it fits. Overall, I truly enjoyed this book and actually, I knew I would as soon as I read the synopsis. It is just my kind of story and it’s already much-loved in the Goodreads community. The author was very brave to write this novel and her hard work paid off. The writing flowed perfectly and although it was split between three perspectives, each character had their own unique voice. This was definitely one of my favourite reads in 2016 and I’m looking forward to see what else Mindy McGinnis releases in the future.